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Art / Criticism & Theory > The Art of Dying

The Art of Dying: Writings, 2019-2022

By Peter Schjeldahl, Steve Martin, Jarrett Earnest

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Publish Date

May 14, 2024


Social Science / Death & Dying
Literary Collections / Essays


The complete last essays of acclaimed writer Peter Schjeldahl, the great New Yorker art critic and Pulitzer Prize finalist.
Foreword by Steve Martin
Introduction by Jarrett Earnest
When the New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl published his widely read autobiographical essay “The Art of Dying” in December 2019, he reported that he had lung cancer and his oncologist had given him six months to live, but his experimental treatment was showing some improvement. “These extra months,” he wrote, “are a luxury that I hope to have put to good use.” And he did. The Art of Dying: Writings, 2019-2022 begins with that essay and collects all 46 pieces that he wrote for the magazine before his death in October 2022.
These last works express Schjeldahl’s hard-won reflections on art and life, against the backdrop of an intensely anxious period in America, spanning the pandemic, the George Floyd protests, the 2020 presidential election, and the war in Ukraine. Schjeldahl, who was the leading art writer of his generation, wrote with generosity and openness about the art world during these tempestuous three years.
Peter Schjeldahl was the art critic for The New Yorker for 24 years until his death in 2022. He was a finalist for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism. Prior to that, he wrote art criticism for Seven Days and the Village Voice. In 2019, Abrams published his Hot, Cold, Heavy, Light: 100 Art Writings, 1988-2018, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Steve Martin’s books include An Object of Beauty: A Novel (2011), Shopgirl: A Novella (2006), and his memoir Born Standing Up (2007). He lives in New York City.
Jarrett Earnest is a writer and curator, and the author of What it Means to Write About Art: Interviews with Art Critics (2018). He lives in New York City.

ISBN: 9781419773242
Format: Hardback
Pages: 304
Publisher: Abrams Press
Published: May 14, 2024

“Brilliant … a testament to Schjeldahl’s unique ability to make tangible art’s emotional effects on the viewer … This posthumous collection will be a gift to Schjeldahl’s admirers and a revelation to those new to his work.”“A gorgeous memento mori from a singular writer.”“Peter Schjeldahl wrote things that made you put down the magazine or shut the laptop or slowly slip the phone back in your pocket. Things that were so good you needed to take a minute. He was the leading art critic of his generation … but he was better than that. You could adore art or not be especially interested in it. You could concur or passionately disagree. It didn’t matter: You would read Schjeldahl just to read sentences by him. … The pieces in his new posthumous collection, The Art of Dying, were all written … after Peter was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer in 2019. The doctors told him he had six months to live. But he undertook experimental treatment, and, miraculously, it worked. He lived three more years. The collection, then, is haloed by a quality of grace, almost of intercession. It is filled with terrific examples of Peter doing what he did best.”